After an off-season overhaul, the Mavericks sit in a crowded pack of teams aiming for one of the West's final playoff spots. José Calderón will be the x-factor. He arrived in Dallas with a four-year, $29 million deal, which seems rich at first blush for a floor general with subpar defensive abilities. The 32-year-old Spaniard joins two other players known more for their scoring than their stopping, Dirk Nowitzki and free agent Monta Ellis, to form the core of a team that will aim for a top 10 offense while trying to hold things together on the other end.
There might just be enough firepower to make it work. Calderón is a career 39.9% three-point shooter, and he hit a league-leading 46.1% last year despite being traded from Toronto to Detroit during the season and spending time as both a starter and as a reserve. Whether as a floor spacer for Ellis or as an outlet for Nowitzki when defenses collapse, Calderón should enjoy plenty of open looks—and a very bright green light.
In addition, Calderón's intuitive passing, which has produced a top five assist percentage for three straight seasons, should help Ellis, who doesn't exhibit the greatest shot selection when left to his own devices. Nowitzki, 35, is hoping for a bounce-back year after missing 29 games with a right knee injury. The success of the pick-and-roll partnership between Calderón and the self-titled Big German will most likely determine whether the Mavs can squeeze into the postseason.
COACH RICK CARLISLE (6TH SEASON WITH MAVERICKS)
2012--13 RECORD 41--41 (4TH IN SOUTHWEST)
WHAT'S NEW After two years of missing out on marquee free agents, Dallas again overhauled its roster with B-listers.
PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)
PG JOSÉ CALDERÓN
11.3 PPG; 7.1 APG; 49.1 FG%; 46.1 3FG%
SG MONTA ELLIS
19.2 PPG; 3.9 RPG; 41.6 FG%; 28.7 3FG%
SF SHAWN MARION
12.1 PPG; 7.8 RPG; 2.4 APG; 51.4 FG%
PF DIRK NOWITZKI
17.3 PPG; 6.8 RPG; 47.1 FG%; 41.4 3FG%
C SAMUEL DALEMBERT
6.7 PPG; 5.9 RPG; 1.1 BPG; 54.2 FG%
SF VINCE CARTER
13.4 PPG; 4.1 RPG; 43.5 FG%; 40.6 3FG%
CONSECUTIVE ALL-NBA teams made by Dirk Nowitzki, a run that ended last season. Only Kobe Bryant (15), Karl Malone (14), Tim Duncan (13) and Shaquille O'Neal (13) have had longer streaks.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE MAVERICKS
Every one of these guys that they brought in has some warts on him—the teams they were with didn't want them back.... I began wondering last year if Dirk Nowitzki was starting to break down. He's been looking good in the preseason, and it's going to be huge for them if he's close to what he was three years ago. But I don't know if they can count on that much from him.... We can talk about how he changed the game, but in a way it isn't fair to Dirk. All these stretch fours, they're just shooters. Dirk is much more than that.... I couldn't tell you who their second-best player is going to be. I like José Calderón, but he always plays better in his contract year, and better when he has competition. Rick Carlisle doesn't mess around; if Devin Harris is playing better, then he is going to start, so maybe that will bring out the best in Calderón.... It's going to be hard to start Calderón and Monta Ellis because they're both such bad defenders. If my team sees them together, we're going to be attacking those guys all night long—putting them in pick-and-roll, swinging the ball into isolation and just going at them.... Sam Dalembert is about the only defender they have, and he's a knucklehead. It's always a joke for him. At his best he's blocking shots and offensive rebounding; he could be an all-defensive player if he showed up and did it all the time. He'd be a great weapon if he would consistently roll hard to the basket, particularly with Dirk setting the middle screen.... If you ask me about Fab Melo, this conversation is over.
KENT SMITH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (CALDERÓN)
O-MINDED GUARD CALDERÓN
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (NOWITZKI)